While writing The All Consuming I happened upon Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. It struck a chord in me in a way that no other book on writing had. And I’ve read my share. King talked about the need to gather momentum, to ride the wave of inspiration until the first draft of a novel was finished. He said his goal was always to finish a first draft in three months. To me, this sounded like madness.
As I contemplated attempting this madness, a few things became immediately obvious:
- There would be no watching TV/movies during writing time.
- There would be no playing computer games during writing time.
- I would need a lot of coffee.
It took me a year and a half to finish the first draft of my first novel, 88. I spent two years editing and rewriting as I tried to find a publisher, and another year editing and rewriting once I’d signed a deal with Five Rivers.
My second novel, Beyond Redemption, took a year to write and another year to edit. After HARPER Voyager bought the book I spent several months working with Executive Editor, David Pomerico to further polish the manuscript.
My third novel, The All Consuming, I wrote in nine months and I was amazed. It was suddenly entirely possible I could write and edit one novel a year.
And then I read King’s book. Three months. Madness. But everything else King said rang true. Like me he write without much of a plan, allowing the novel to take him where it would. I had to try. I would write When Far-Gone Dead Return, the sequel to Beyond Redemption, in three months.
I set a goal. I did the math. Ten thousand words a week. If I did that, I would have 120,000 words in twelve weeks. Here is what the reality of that looked like…
|Jan 15, 15||3350||5797||2447|
|Jan 16, 15||5797||8879||3082|
|Jan 17, 15||8879||10525||1646|
|Jan 19, 15||10525||12080||1555|
|Jan 20, 15||12080||13763||1683|
|Jan 21, 15||13588||13992||404|
|Jan 22, 15||13992||17000||3008|
|Jan 23, 15||16084||20249||4165|
|Jan 24, 15||0|
|Jan 25, 15||0|
|Jan 26, 15||19050||21987||2937|
|Jan 27, 15||21799||25703||3904|
|Jan 28, 15||25236||28937||3701|
|Jan 29, 15||28669||30491||1822|
|Jan 30, 15||29733||32491||2758|
|Jan 31, 15||0|
|Feb 1, 15||0|
|Feb 2, 15||31956||35424||3468|
|Feb 3, 15||33943||36251||2308|
|Feb 4, 15||35048||37252||2204|
|Feb 5, 15||36881||36881||0|
|Feb 6, 15||36881||38733||1852|
|Feb 7, 15||38733||40355||1622|
|Feb 8, 15||0|
|Feb 9, 15||40355||42800||2445|
|Feb 10, 15||42800||45808||3008|
|Feb 11, 15||45415||47843||2428|
|Feb 12, 15||47320||49949||2629|
|Feb 13, 15||49308||52936||3628|
|Feb 14, 15||0|
|Feb 15, 15||0|
|Feb 16, 15||52173||52173||0|
|Feb 17, 15||52173||55718||3545|
|Feb 18, 15||53466||57559||4093|
|Feb 19, 15||0|
|Feb 20, 15||57559||60301||2742|
|Feb 21, 15||0|
|Feb 22, 15||0|
|Feb 23, 15||58596||60206||1610|
|Feb 24, 15||59981||61701||1720|
|Feb 25, 15||0|
|Feb 26, 15||0|
|Feb 27, 15||61701||64227||2526|
|Feb 28, 15||63170||65540||2370|
|Mar 1, 15||0|
|Mar 2, 15||65540||68654||3114|
|Mar 3, 15||68654||70540||1886|
|Mar 4, 15||70540||73893||3353|
|Mar 5, 15||0|
|Mar 6, 15||73893||76393||2500|
|Mar 7, 15||0|
|Mar 8, 15||0|
|Mar 9, 15||76393||77979||1586|
|Mar 10, 15||77979||78039||60|
|Mar 11, 15||78306||81616||3310|
|Mar 12, 15||81616||81783||167|
|Mar 13, 15||81783||86590||4807|
|Mar 14, 15||0|
|Mar 15, 15||0|
|Mar 16, 15||85988||90003||4015|
|Mar 17, 15||87987||91620||3633|
|Mar 18, 15||90641||94567||3926|
|Mar 19, 15||94567||96104||1537|
|Mar 20, 15||93550||98306||4756|
|Mar 21, 15||0|
|Mar 22, 15||98306||98319||13|
|Mar 23, 15||98319||103197||4878|
|Mar 24, 15||102076||107748||5672|
|Mar 25, 15||106075||108499||2424|
You’ll note it’s a tad shy of 120,000 words, but that I finished in ten weeks instead of twelve. There remain some descriptions and scenes to flesh out a bit (I call that editing, not first draft writing) and I’ll probably write a ‘What has Gone Before’ for folks who haven’t read Beyond Redemption recently. I will also write an Epilogue.
If you really have an eye for detail and actually studied the above chart you will have noticed that some days started with a lower word count than the previous day ended. This is because for this novel I sketched out a rough guideline for the upcoming few chapters before writing them. I planned, but never more than three or four chapters (and this is a ~36 chapter novel) in advance. I wrote over my notes, and deleted them after tallying my daily count. My actual total word count for those twelve months: 121,772.
For the most part I wrote Monday through Friday and weekends were for my family. The odd time they left me home alone, I dashed for the office to squeeze a few words in. During the week the earliest I could start was often 9am, and I rarely was able to write later than 4pm.
Did I hold down a real job while doing this? Uh…no, not really.
Am I happy? Oh fuck yes.